“The first shipment of tomatoes was shipped out today”, said Laura Brinkman, Marketing Coordinator for the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG). I called the OGVG because I’ve been looking for Ontario produce in grocery stores and apart from cucumbers, haven’t been able to find any tomatoes or peppers.
So yes, I called to ask why and in the process, discovered that there is actually a season or cycle for Ontario greenhouse produce.
Modern greenhouse agriculture is a beautiful way to produce delicious food in Ontario. Greenhouse growing gives the farmer a completely controlled environment, free from rain, wind, scorching sun, and hungry pests. It also extends the growing season by creating a warm, sunny environment for almost an entire year of growing, but since plants don’t live forever, they’re pulled out and new ones planted.
This cycle of replanting usually happens in our coldest months. You know the days between December to the end of February when we have very short days with very little sunshine. This is problematic for greenhouse growing because without sunshine, plants don’t grow. If plants don’t grow, yield is down but in the coldest winter months, energy costs are high.
So it makes sense to pull out the crops in December, scrub and sanitize the greenhouses and replant in January. The new plants begin producing in March and will produce all the way to December again. This is a common cycle for tomatoes and peppers but cucumbers have a different cycle and this is why I can find Ontario greenhouse cucumbers in the grocery stores right now, but no tomatoes or peppers. Well, not until now.
Laura taught me a few other things about greenhouse growing. For example, growing crops in a greenhouse allows the farmer to grow approximately 10 times the amount as the same size outdoor field would yield. The way they’re grown means the tomato and pepper plants often reach a height of 20-feet tall. Most greenhouse operations are hydroponic (using water) and are certified in the most current food safety standards. Pest management is easier in a controlled environment, the farmers introduce good bugs that manage the bad bugs.
I always thought the largest greenhouse operations are in Essex Kent County, the warmest spot in Ontario. While many of them are there, large and small greenhouse operations are located throughout the province from Windsor across to Ottawa. Here in Niagara we have a few greenhouses operations. St. Davids Hydroponics produces multi-coloured sweet peppers, eggplant and some cucumbers. Koornneef’s in Grimsby grow lots of juicy cucumbers, tomatoes and sweet peppers, Muileboom Greenhouses in Port Colborne grows multi-coloured tomatoes and cucumbers (and you can buy from them directly). If I’ve missed any, please let me know.
Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) is a not-for-profit organization representing over 220 greenhouse farm members across the province with greenhouses that cover over 2,000 acres of glistening glass. Under this glass they grow many varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers and multi coloured sweet pepper crops. Chances are you’ve seen their logo in grocers produce section next to the Foodland Ontario banners. They also produce a delicious cookbook called, A Taste of Ontario. www.ontariogreenhouse.com
For simple, easy recipes that bring out the flavours of greenhouse produce, click here http://on.fb.me/H00cDH